Armenia’s international air traffic has continued to grow rapidly this year thanks to the 2013 liberalization of its civil aviation sector, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
Sergey Avetisian, head of the Armenian government’s civil aviation department, said the country’s two functioning airports have processed over 2.5 million passengers since January 1, 2017, up by 21 percent from 2016.
Official statistics released by him also show an 18 percent rise in the number of commercial flights carried out to and from the international airports located just outside Yerevan and Gyumri.
The government decided to switch to the so-called “open skies” policy in October 2013 following the bankruptcy of the Armavia national airline. The latter had enjoyed exclusive rights to fly to Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East for almost ten years.
The liberalization, strongly backed by Western donors, allowed local and foreign carriers meeting safety standards to carry out flights to and from Armenia without any restrictions. Some of them have entered the Armenian aviation market while others expanded existing flight services since then. This has also translated into lower ticket prices.
Avetisian said several more flight services were launched in the course of 2017. He revealed that a local private airline called Armenia will start flying to Lyon, France and Cologne, Germany on a regular basis in 2018. In addition, he said, Turkmenistan’s national airline will launch regular flights to another German city, Frankfurt, via Yerevan on Wednesday.
Avetisian also reported a 30 percent surge in the physical volume of air cargo traffic carried out through Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport. Armenian products exported abroad accounted for 70 percent of those shipments, said the official.
Meanwhile, another small Armenian airline, Taron Avia, announced that it has decided to at least temporarily halt next Monday its flights from Gyumri to Moscow and another Russian city, Krasnodar. One of the reasons for the move given by its owner, Garnik Papikian, is a seasonal drop in passenger traffic expected in January and February. He also said that his company is struggling to compete with a Russian budget airline, Pobeda, which also flies to Armenia’s second largest city.
Papikian also complained that Russian airlines pay much less for airport ground services provided in Russia than foreign ones do. In Armenia, by contrast, the service fees are the same for all carriers, he said.
Pobeda increased the frequency of its Moscow-Gyumri flights and cut their price after Taron Avia launched its operations six months ago. Papikian described the price cut as a “form of dumping.”
Avetisian said, however, that the Armenian civil aviation authority has seen no evidence of unfair competition on the part of the Russians. He expressed hope that Taron Avia will resume its flights this spring.
“Our objective now is to invigorate the Gyumri airport and attract as many visitors to Gyumri as possible,” the official told a news conference.
According to local travel agencies, a one-way ticket for Taron Avia’s next flight from Gyumri to Moscow, scheduled for Friday, costs 39,000 drams ($80), compared with 42,000 drams charged by Pobeda.